A few weeks ago, my wonderful mummy and I took a road trip to Wilmington, Delaware for the weekend. While there are plenty of attractions in the area (no sales tax!!!), we were there for one reason – the Downton Abbey Costume Exhibit at the Winterthur Estate and Museum.
The Winterthur Museum procured iconic and beloved costumes from the Downton Abbey costume department to display in the Winterthur Estate, a 20th century American equivalent to Downton. As a fashion lover, history aficionado, and religious Downton follower, this was my idea of heaven.
The tickets are surprisingly inexpensive – $20 per person – and include entry to the Downton Abbey exhibit, the Winterthur Estate, a guided tour of the house, a garden tour, and various seasonal exhibits within the Estate, museum, library and grounds.
We started the day with a Downton-inspired brunch in the visitor’s center, which was lovely. Staff dressed in period costumes (think Anna and Thomas) as they poured mimosas and tea. The museum’s facilities were lovely, but the real attraction is the Downton Abbey exhibit.
The exhibit occupies three or four massive rooms. The immersive set up takes you from 6 AM downstairs, waiting for the bells to ring so breakfast can be taken up, to the very late evening when Her Ladyship and the Dowager Countess don their gowns and tiaras.
Each series of outfits depicts a scene, such as the Crawley girls at the Garden Party (far above) or Daisy and Mrs. Patmore cooking in the kitchen (above). There are little placards describing the scene, the design, the history of the garments, and the historical context of each scene.
Along with the immersive displays, there are interactive pieces to the exhibit. You can make a bell on the board ring, just like in the show, or smell the tea favored by aristocracy in the 20th century.
The highlight of the exhibit is the iconic, stunning, breathtaking, wonderful costumes on display. The evening gowns (above), with their original time period beading and details, are the very definition of beautiful clothing. One of my favorite pieces (there were two – I couldn’t pick one!) was Edith’s wedding gown (below), which was so beautiful that my mother and I agreed that I could get married in something so stunning.
We drove about three hours and stayed over night, and it was worth it. I very much enjoyed this exhibit. It is a very girly event perfect for a girl’s getaway with your mother, your best friend, or your sister. There were a few mummies with babies there, and even the babies seemed enthralled by the displays.
My absolute favorite part of the exhibit was the very last scene – Matthew’s proposal to Mary. I stood and watched the scene and studied the gown for twenty minutes, imagining the snow was really falling and I was really in front of Downton Abbey. It was an incredible exhibit, and I am so very glad I went.